There are about two handfuls of culinary experiences that have changed my life like the first time I ate foie gras or the first time I had a pizza with a farm egg on top. The first time I ate fresh fava beans was in Alicante Spain in 2005, before that I was only aware of them via Hannibal Lecter. Back to Spain. So I was with a group of American ex pats and we decided to make a paella. I assumed we would be eating a typical paella, like the bright yellow kind you see in the form of mini fridge magnets. We went out to the beautiful farmer’s market and someone suggested putting favas in the paella. I had never had fresh favas, only dried and so didn’t think it was such a great idea.
I can’t recall much about how we prepped them besides the fact that we added them during the last few minutes of cooking, but the end result was so fresh, delicious and unique that it stayed with me for years to come. Fresh favas taste like, hmmm mildly nutty, really clean and with a hint of mint, which is why they go so well with mint. They are firm, not mushy or mealy like peas, unless you overcook them.
I am so happy that favas have been “trending” for the past few years. I always order them when I see them on a menu and since the best approach to preparing favas is doing very little too them, they are almost always incredible. (trending is word I don’t like, but unfortunately works)
I have prepared favas at home only a few times and it is because at first they intimidated me, but then I was simply too lazy. Favas are a dichotomy. They take a while to undress and only about 45 seconds to cook. If you have access to fresh favas in the pod, I highly recommend that you get some and try wrangle them before they disappear. Never overcook your favas! I have seen recipe after recipe suggesting that you cook them for 3-5 minutes! Don’t do it!!!
HOW TO PREP AND COOK FAVAS
1. Buy bigger and heavier favas in the pod (they are simply easier to prep). Store for a few days in the fridge only if you have to.
2. Pour yourself a glass of Chianti and open pods gently with fingers as a knife might damage the sweet little fava.
3. Bring a pot of water big enough to hold your beans to a boil.
4. Place your favas in the water for 45 seconds. If your favas are teeny, then remove after 40. If your favas are huge, wait a whole minute. If you are skittish, take one out and try it.
5. Place cooked favas in a bowl of water with ice to stop the cooking process.
6. Take a sip of wine, maybe two and one by one pinch off the tip of the outer layer and gently squeeze. The fava will pop right out. Try not to eat all of them while you do this.
FAVA BEAN, ARUGULA, AVOCADO AND PECORINO SALAD
1 cup cooked favas
1 bag of clean wild arugula
1 teaspoon chopped fresh mint
1/2 cup shaved Pecorino
Juice of half a lemon
fresh ground pepper
Toss Arugula with lemon juice and a drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper. You don’t want to weigh down your arugula. Add fava beans and avocado. Give a gentle toss. Top each plate with shaved Pecorino. The photo shown here contains sliced asparagus, not avocado and balsamic vinegar, which works beautifully too.
FAVA BEAN AND RICOTTA CROSTINI Williams Sonoma
* 1 1/2 lb. fava beans in their pods
* 1 baguette
* 1/2 cup whole-milk ricotta cheese
* 1/2 cup finely grated pecorino romano cheese
* 1 1/2 Tbs. chopped fresh mint
* 1/2 tsp. finely grated lemon zest
* 2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
* Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Add the ricotta, pecorino, 1 tablespoon of the mint, the lemon zest and 2 Tbs. olive oil to the bowl with the fava beans. Using a fork, mash the ingredients together until well blended. Season with salt and pepper. Drizzle a little olive oil over crostini, then top with a tablespoon of the fava and cheese mixture. Crostini are simply thin slices of baguette that have been browned in the oven or toaster oven.
OTHER WAYS TO ENJOY FAVAS
• Add to heirloom tomato salad
• Add to mache and radish salad
• Add to a quinoa, brown rice or lentil salad to add brightness and texture
• with a human liver and chianti (joke)
* Note: I usually use my own photos, but I am working “remotely”, don’t worry, I am not in jail. I simply didn’t have easy access to favas, but didn’t want to deny you of this post.